A pair of brothers, who have invented a device that can translate a conversation into other languages on the fly, won this year’s HackHarvard, a 36-hour hackathon sponsored by Harvard University.
Gerry Fernando Patia, a College of Engineering computer engineering student; and Reyhan Fernando Patia, a College of Science computer science student, say their product, which they dubbed PolyGlot, was born out of a trip to Japan.
“During a trip last summer, my brother and I had difficulties communicating with the people,” says Gerry. “Just asking for simple things such as directions, ordering foods, or how much things were worth was extremely difficult since we didn’t know Japanese. The experience propelled us to create a device that will enable people to communicate with each other without language barriers.”
Polyglot translates from one language to another using everyday conversation. It won because it ‘tackles classic technology…to improve or create an amazing product,’ according to the HackHarvard judges. A person speaks in the device what they want to say, the converter box then takes the speech and converts it into common everyday language for the other person to hear. PolyGlot, accessed from a smartphone app, enables the user to select from the list of languages they want translated.
The PolyGlot utilizes two Raspberry Pis, (low-cost and compact compute modules), one which translates the speech with Google Voice API to text. The second Raspberry Pi receives the file and then translates it using the Microsoft Translation Service.
“We believe Polyglot will be able to redefine the term ‘communication,” says Reyhan. “Since what we have now is a one-way communication device, we would like to further develop it so that it will be two way. In addition, we would like to implement onboard processing to eliminate the hassle of relying on Wi-Fi.”
The inventors also hope to create a smaller and more stylish design to make it a wearable technology. They also would like to add more languages to the database
Yu Sun, an assistant professor of Computer Science says that he is impressed by what the brothers created.
“Overall I think what these students achieved is a great encouragement for all Cal Poly Pomona students,” says Sun. “They used what they have learned in class to solve a real-world problem, and beat out teams from MIT, Harvard and Stanford. Since our students understand the learn-by-doing philosophy, most have demonstrated superior practical and problem-solving skills already used in the industry.”